"Promised Land" : HACKATAO + GUERCINO

Breezy Art
Feb 12, 2021 8:48PM


Hackatao, Promised Land - Digital Animation, 2021 | Giovanni Francesco Berbieri known as Guercino, Moses Oil on canvas, 1625 c.a 81 x 70 cm Courtesy of Ossimoro Spilamberto Art Gallery

After sleeping for three thousand years, Moses - “saved from the waters” -, liberator of his people, awakens and looks to the world. Where are his sons? And where is the land where “milk and honey flow”? He sees the mermaid-enchanted Mediterranean sea, red of lost lives. Almost closed, it is now an “open sea” and Europe is about one Canaan too far away. In the exodus of the 21st century, people flood without guidance to escape the horror; and to set out for the Promised Land.

If Guercino’s naturalistic inclination in his Moses makes the work true to the real world, then even more so does it reveal an expression of “obedience” to the appearance of the light of God. The Moses of 2021 turns his face in sundering pain from this light.

In Promised Land by the Italian artist duo Hackatao, the dream of the Promised Land is reversed, showing the point of view of migrants and demonstrating the utopia of a “paradise” that only exists when experienced and beheld from its inside. The place of happiness becomes the non-lieu that traces the portrait of our century par excellence; that of refugees, those who abandon their former lives to embark with the new, to a place seemingly just out of reach.

The millenial rest of Moses and his awakening, which Hackatao imagined through their artistic gesture of creating a work in narrative dialogue with Guercino’s Moses, represents a literary continuation. Even with passing millenia the dramas and needs of human beings change not in essence, but in form only. The combination of a digital art work exhibited on a screen with that of a great Italian master like Guercino no longer seems brazen, but an intuitively simple step in a tradition which bridges the archaic with the contemporary.

In contrast with the absence of place which characterizes our age, through their art Hackatao take us to what is instead its agora; a place of encounters, where space and time cancel each other out and where the promise of a land is within reach of all. This promised land is the Web.

“I am that I am”, “He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him.”

Thus spoke Moses, the hand and mouth of God. And thus Art Is; spark of divine light, message and messenger, between indivisible and continuous time and space.

Eleonora Brizi

HACKATAO + GUERCINO, "Promised Land" art show, CRAC Art Space, Castelnuovo Rangone (MO), Italy

The project “Promised Land” was conceived by Alessandro Mescoli for the new season of CRAC Art Space in Castelnuovo Rangone (MO), Italy.

On display from February 7th to March 28th.

The art piece “Moses” by Guercino is courtesy of Ossimoro Art Gallery (www.ossimoro.com).

The virtual show is taking place today Feb 13th on Arium platform (https://arium.events/), with a dense schedule of presentations and visitors going around with webcams and microphones “just like being in the same room together again”.

HACKATAO + GUERCINO, "Promised Land" art show on Arium platform

When Hackatao invited me to curate this project - together with the amazing Alessandro Mescoli - I felt blessed. Dealing with an artist like Guercino, as well as a theme like “Moses”, isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. But I really loved the attitude of Hackatao towards this opportunity and together we made the decision of not treating the show as a “challenge” or a comparison: instead, we thought of it as a dialogue.

I tried to escape the structures and schemes of the history, the market and the art circles. And after a big breath, I only thought about the art.

How can “someone” like Moses relate to our times? How can the standing of such a majestic and crucial character possibly be in conversation with contemporary topics and issues?

The more I kept thinking about the story of Moses, the more I was understanding that nothing has ever really changed. I started to see that exodus of “his” people not being that different from our migrations in the Mediterranean sea. Of course the times and modes have changed, but not the core of the needs and dramas of humanity.

And I began to wonder: what if we create a real narration in the content? Without caring about stylistic frills or worrying about -isms? Centuries have passed while humanity has never changed. The conversation was always there and art has been perpetuating the narration.

Art, timeless and spaceless, eternal. What were these people looking for when Moses was their guide? What are we all looking for today? A better place, a goal, an arrival, a home, a finish, a destination: haven’t we always been in the search of a “Promised Land”?

Eleonora Brizi

Giovanni Francesco Berbieri known as Guercino, Moses Oil on canvas, 1625 c.a 81 x 70 cm Courtesy of Ossimoro Spilamberto Art Gallery

This interview is meant to be a conversation between the artist duo Hackatao and the two curators of the project Alessandro Mescoli and Eleonora Brizi, asking each other questions.

E: Alessandro, tell us about how the project took form and how you had the idea of pulling together the art of Guercino, one of the Italian masters of the 17th century, with the very contemporary art by Hackatao. Why Hackatao?

Everything originated from the desire to create an oxymoron, a visual tension, between the works on display. What better possibility than to activate this contrast through a temporal gap, a comparison between the centuries?

In the past, I have already investigated this issue in other institutional exhibitions, because I believe that antithetical combinations can often strengthen the value and understanding of the works on display; even outside the classic “whiteroom”.

Then comes the scientific, or rather historical - critical aspect: the demonstration of the evolution of artistic thought without interruption, without barriers and on the same, oriented, timeline.

The Baroque is an ideal condition to highlight the differences with the future. It represents the pictorial opulence, the weight of the frills and the arabesque. Everything you do not expect from a digital work, which at least in theory people believe to be minimal and depleted of a material medium or a real support, made by the author.

On the theoretical level The choice of a "warm" painter serves to exacerbate the contrast towards the ultra contemporary. Guercino's Moses is even organic, almost realistic in reproducing even the consumption of the skin.

I could have brought Guido Reni but it would have been a cold palette, idealized pale android faces (think of his crucifixions or his depositions), or a canvas by Giovanni Andrea Sirani, but it would have been cold.

Hence, the luck of the availability of Sergio Bianchi's Ossimoro art gallery in lending the work we have selected.

As for Hackatao, the choice fell on them for trust and transversality. Trust, because in the past I hosted their work, with the desire to keep together a group of artists including them. And transversality, as an essential gift to guarantee the stability of a project, where the work, the most extreme and visionary possible, had to be created on purpose, with its own identity capable of harmonizing with the ancient canvas.

E: Hackatao, what was your first reaction when you got invited to exhibit your art together with that of a painter like Guercino? Did you feel the weight of the past or the push of the contemporaneity? How did you face this “challenge”?

Pure emotion. We love to get involved, confront ourselves and collaborate with other artists and we conceived this “challenge” just like a collaboration between us and Guercino.

Our languages ​​are very distant and different, for this reason the comparison was even more interesting. As we usually do for our works, before starting with the creative part, we research and study the context or topic. It is a moment in which we feed our mind with stimuli which we then transform into the artwork.

The comparison with artists of the past is never a burden, first of all we are dwarves on the shoulders of giants, so they are the ones who support us. Moreover, what has already been done helps us to follow a path of originality. Meaning that if you know the roads that were already traveled, you avoid them ... in order to trace your own path.

Therefore, we focused on the theme of the exodus that we transposed into the contemporary world. A theme that is always very current. We wanted to approach it from a different perspective, from the point of view of those who are arriving.

Jan de Bisschop, Moses Drawing

Adam Bartsch, Moses Engraving

Bernardino Cervi, Moses Engraving, 1624

A: Hackatao, I was very surprised by the refined color system of the Promised Land animation. Have you studied works of the past to draw inspiration, or was it developed for tests and combinations with the work of Guercino?

The chromatic research in our works is always very important and the colors are never random. We treat each work differently, but if we look at our works as a whole, we can find a chromatic affinity.

In Promised Land we felt the need to harmonize colors with Guercino's work but without distorting our POP vein. However, through color we also wanted to communicate the dramatic situation of the passage through the waters. So there is a search for meaning and attention to harmony in the dialogue between the two works.

And then, more generally about your work,

In the short narratives that occur through your animations, the action is often announced, incipient, but never finished; a little suspended as it happened in the "open work" so dear to Calvino or to Eco.

Chance or attention to the language of the new avant-gardes?

Absolutely yes, our works respect the canons of "open work". No answer defined by us artists but a stimulus to multiple interpretations. The user of the work has the opportunity to participate in the hacking of the theme with us.

Animation is reduced to a minimum, freeing us from the usual cinematographic language, and imprisoned in an eternal loop that in the case of Promised Land matches the continuous repetition of the migrations of peoples.

In the work we also tried to give a hypnotic sense that wants to visually resume the siren's call, then emphasized in the music created ad hoc by Matermato which amplifies this feeling of hypnotic suspension and unstoppable drama.

A: Eleonora, why did you think of diversifying your career as an art curator and critic by focusing on digital art?

It was a very natural and spontaneous transition. I do not come from artistic studies, which if on the one hand it is limiting, on the other it constitutes a shortcut to the new, outside of many academic schemes and limits. However, from the beginning of my career, I was catapulted into the world of "the most" contemporary art. Working with the artist Ai Weiwei for four years was a bit like going to a school of contemporary: from an artistic and above all social point of view. It becomes a mindset, from which one can no longer ignore and I believe that this has helped me to have an eye always open on everything that is highly contemporary, or even pioneering.

And then

How much, in your opinion, does digital art leave room for figuration and narration in the international contemporary scene?

Digital art, to which we unfortunately address in these terms and which I would prefer to simply call (contemporary) "art", does not differ from figuration nor even from narration. Simply, it manifests itself in its own aesthetic and canons which are another way of understanding the same concepts or currents. It is always a bit of the same old story, as well as the "morality" that we draw from this artistic juxtaposition of a work by Guercino with that of Hackatao: little has changed over the centuries in substance, but only in form. Having now proof that a figurative painting like that of Moses can absolutely dialogue with a digital animation depicting a moving siren and perpetuate a narrative that actually never ended, I don't think there is much to add: we were, we are and we will be human, nothing can ever be so different. Water can appear in a liquid, solid or gaseous state, when we walk near a river, when we drink a vermouth with a nice ice cube, when we relax in a sauna: it is always water.

The making of

"Promised Land" by Hackatao

H: We have a question for the curators.

When the artist unveils his work, it is a bit like getting naked in public, he is subject to judgments, criticisms, misunderstandings or positive admiration, curiosity, etc.

What was the first emotional impact you had in viewing the juxtaposition of the two works?

A: I first viewed the digital work, alone. Very powerful and refined.

A futuristic but ancient and Mediterranean work in the story told. Made of attention to detail, to the chromatic system and to the tradition of drawing.

I would say a "dynamic painting", but slow, where the harmonic kinesia of the characters, albeit reiterated, brings the mind back to certain scenes of Viola, or to Warhol's first video experiments, where the viewer practiced to visually trace every flickering of the image .

Then comes the song of the Siren, ecstatic, but now it is the guide of men among the waves.

Located next to the canvas, the activation begins. The works are completed through a union that smooths out, like the short century of the twentieth century, all the differences that can manifest themselves in 400 years.

And although Guercino's Moses seems to ironically protect his face, the history of art itself is called upon to confirm its destiny. It will be a "sin" to separate the two works when the exhibition is over: Man does not divide what God has united.

E: It is nice that you ask about the emotional impact of the curator, rather than an art criticism on the works.

In my case, since I followed the creation of the digital work step by step, I unfortunately deprived myself of that pleasant surprise that I believe will strike many of the observers. But despite knowing the work, the thrill of seeing it alongside Moses was enormous.

The issue addressed in Hackatao's Promised Land is one that I particularly care about, both from a personal and a social point of view. In some way, the theme of the "journey", whether it is forced and obligatory or wanted and sought, has always accompanied my life. This is why I loved the opportunity of a "deconsecrated" Moses, but rather lived in his highest function: that of leader to salvation.

Suddenly, looking at the two works, it all makes sense. The tragedies of humanity, always the same, over the millennia. The search for salvation, in the "Promised Land". Art, and with it the artists, which can change its language with the passing of the centuries, but never changes his voice.

A section of the mood-board of inspirations for "Promised Land" by Hackatao

The artwork Promised Land by Hackatao is tokenized on the platform SuperRare at the following link:


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